The onus is on employers to create working conditions that attract people

Staff absenteeism is one of the most costly issues facing employers in the modern workplace. Absenteeism is defined commonly as an unscheduled, deliberate or routine absence from the workplace by employees. According to a new study by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), people who regularly take days off are costing the UK economy billions each year, with the toll set to rise considerably over the next decade and potentially rising to £26bn by 2030.  The report also found that mental health issues are affecting 30-40 year olds who have to juggle various things such as home life, financial constraint and pressures from their day jobs and respective careers. Another recent study by AXA PPP healthcare found that over a third of employees living with a mental health condition (39 percent) are not open about it in the workplace. These findings highlight a clear disconnect between how employees are feeling and what their employers understand to be their state of mind.

These are not statistics that can be ignored and whilst we may never get to the point of a 100% open and honest dialogue between employers and employees, there are many steps that companies and workplace managers can take to mitigate against the damage of workplace absenteeism.

For example, many organisations are taking corporate wellness programs seriously and are thinking of ways in which to boost and improve wellness. Google for example has established a People & Innovation Lab to carry out research and development within its People Operations. The company is particularly interested in finding unique ways to improve the health of its employees.

Of course, not all employees who take sick days are genuinely ill. One common assumption is that employees skip work to relax and do nothing; however this is not always the case. An employee could instead be looking to free up time for ‘life admin’, childcare or other household activities.

The problem here is that there is a lack of communication between the employee and employer and from experience most employees assume that there will be no flexibility from the bosses or firms which is not always the case. There must be an open dialogue and better communication from organisations to staff and where possible businesses should provide a platform for employees to feedback their concerns.

What we are seeing is office space providers providing a range of on-site services and amenities such as; laundry and dry-cleaning, concierge services, gym facilities and restaurants which help to reduce the risk of absenteeism as some of the incentives for taking time off are removed.

But interventions should not just be about damage limitation, there are also many examples of companies taking a more proactive approach to wellbeing at work.

Engaging activities such as cultural gatherings, social and team building events, health and sports clubs, employees give opportunities to connect with others which help in making them feel valued and motivated to do their best at work.  The work/life balance that these activities bring to employees can help them to foster better relationships with their co-workers and managers and provide a boost of positive energy in the working day too.

The goal should be to create a culture where employees feel empowered to live a healthier lifestyle where employees actually look forward to going, rather than the reverse.

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Graham White, is Chief Executive of Chiswick Park Enjoy-Work

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